May, 23 2016
No, I Don't Need to Wear Hijab to be a Good Person

We women should support our freedom for a full authority of our body, instead of judging those who dress differently than us.

by Mardiana Widia Ningrum
Issues // Politics and Society
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Growing up in the New Order era in the late 90’s, my parents taught their three daughters to dress and behave politely. But although they were conservative parents, they upheld the value of pluralism. Until 9/11 happened.

Over time one by one the women in my family started to wear hijab, including my aunts and my cousins, leaving me as the only one whose hair is not covered. They grew more religious, and they want me to wear hijab and be a religious person as well. Little do they know, that I am a libertarian and an agnostic.

It all started when I was going away for college, when my sister began to tell me to wear hijab. She would write on my Facebook walls about how it is obligatory to use hijab and how I was going to be burn in hell if I didn’t wear it. She would leave comments and say mean things to me, sometimes she even replied to my friends comment and started a hostile argument. She was embarrassing and annoying, so I removed her from my Facebook friends list.

She was never like that before. She used to be like me before she broke up with her long-term boyfriend and became super religious. Her religious belief is somehow a little different from my family, and it caused some arguments as well as making my parents concerned. One time, I had a big fight with her when she found out I drank beer. She was furious and told me that I should taubat (repent). I wasn’t drunk and it was a sip of beer, so I didn’t apologize at all. But from that moment on she knew, I couldn’t be changed. I had made up my mind and I knew who I wanted to be.

Sometimes I don’t understand what bothers my family the most about me: is it me not wearing hijab or is it my point of view? Why is it so important to wear hijab? They told me I would be more beautiful if I wore one, but I don’t believe that. I believe that every woman is beautiful with or without it. I see the hijab as just another trend. Hijab doesn’t measure how well someone behaves or even how devoted she is to God. Hijab is hijab – it’s a scarf to cover your hair. It doesn’t determine anything. And my problem is not hijab itself.  It’s the people, especially women who pressure other women to wear hijab, that is.



The saddest reason for wearing hijab I’ve ever heard was one coworkers offered during our conversation about rape and sexual harassment issues. They said if the rape victim wore hijab and covered her body properly, she would have never been raped. The victim was a woman who was on her way home from work – how do you think she dressed? Rape and sexual harassment can happen to anyone and it’s not a matter of how well you cover your body. It’s the perpetrators’ sick mind that is the problem. 

Gender issue is not only about equality between men and women, but also among women. We women should support the freedom for a full authority of our body, defending other women who are being oppressed, instead of blaming or judging those who dress differently than us. I’ve seen hijabed women who smoke, who drink beer, who talk with profanity, and, no, I don’t think they are bad for doing that.

As for my family, over time they grew tired of trying to change me. Finally, they have come to understand that I am already a good person, who do good things, even without hijab.

Mardiana Widia Ningrum is a true INFJ who concerns about the world. She loves to spend time watching movies and devoting her life to finding the secrets of the universe.